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Innocent Civilians suffer the most in Lethal Combat against the Taliban

As many as 3,500 civilian deaths were recorded in 2015, with one in four deaths being those of a child.

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  • Taliban promises to avenge former leader Mullah Mansour’s death
  • Innocent civilians caught in a crossfire between Taliban and the Afghan Government
  • Security experts say there is no hope of peace in the distant future

Mullah Mansour, former leader of the Taliban, was killed in US drones strikes last week in Pakistan, a year after he assumed the leadership role. The terrorist organization has promised to avenge its leader’s death in the most violent ways possible, a development greatly regretted by the civilians of Afghanistan.

Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour
Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour

Ever since September 2015, Taliban had been performing increasingly lethal attacks against the Afghan Government, ruthlessly destroying the settlements of civilians along the way. Families have been carelessly torn apart with no one to sympathize with their pain and sorrow. The battle of Kunduz, which commenced in April 2015 in an effort by the Taliban forces to take control of the city, assumed a more savage form with the onset of the Mansour leadership.

With each execution of leaders and appointment of new ones, life becomes harder for the average citizen in Afghanistan. These poor civilians, who are not concerned with either the Taliban or the Afghan government, helplessly suffer the worst forms of inhumanity. Rape, molestations, murders and kidnappings are some of the basic mistreatments hurled at these poor souls through the course of this long and everlasting war. TOLO News, Afghanistan’s first 24-hour broadcasting service, after its report on the ill doings of the Taliban, received multiple threats from the organization, which claimed the report to be false.

Mohammed Ali Mohammadi, who worked for Kaboora, a production company affiliated with TOLO News, was killed by Taliban suicide bombings in January, leaving behind his wife and two children to fend for themselves in these troubled times. Similarly, another innocent civilian, Saifullah was killed in a massive car bomb attack in Kabul last month, with his father, wife and five children mourning his death.

These stories are just a couple among thousand others, and yet, even through these times of turmoil, security experts and sources close to Taliban have disclosed that peace cannot be expected in the near future. A UN report from February illustrates the fact that more than 3,500 civilians were killed in 2015, and an appalling one in four deaths were that of a child’s, a big rise as compared to last year’s records, making this the highest number of deaths noted.

The appointment of a new leader brings little hope for an end to this widespread bloodshed. Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada is believed to be a tough military hardliner who has no intentions of ceasefire and will only fuel this warfare further. Although Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani, on behalf of the afghan government, has issued an ultimatum to the new leader, to lay down arms and resume normal life, or face the same fate as Mullah Mansoor, analysts believe it won’t be of any help, as it calls for an immediate surrender instead of negotiation and peace talks, something that the terrorist organization will not digest.

Written by Saurabh Bodas.

Saurabh studies Mechatronics Engineering at Manipal Institute of Technology.

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Is Mullah Mansoor’s Pakistani Passport an act of Deception or Collusion ?

Pakistani Passport found with the Afghani insurgent leader Mullah Mansoor.

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Screenshots of Mansoor's Pakistani Passport
A photo shows the Pakistani passport and ID card that Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was allegedly carrying. Mansoor was killed in a U.S. drone strike Saturday near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal recently responded to an inquiry from parliament’s upper house on how slain Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was able to get a Pakistani passport.

Mansoor was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan’s Balochistan province in May 2016 when he was reportedly returning from a visit to neighboring Iran.

Both his Pakistani passport and ID card were recovered near his car, whichwas destroyed in the drone strike. Mansoor was using the alias Wali Muhammad to avoid being tracked by authorities.

Screenshots taken of his documents went viral on social media and raised questions in the local and international media as to how the Afghan insurgent leader managed to get a legitimate Pakistani passport.

Ahsan Iqbal, Pakistan’s minister of planning and development speaks with Reuters in Islamabad, Pakistan, June 12, 2017.

Pakistan's Minister of Planning and development Ahsan Iqbal
Ahsan Iqbal, Pakistan’s minister of planning and development speaks with Reuters in Islamabad, Pakistan, June 12, 2017.

Source of official passport

Critics at the time were arguing that there must have been people within the Pakistani establishment who helped Mansoor get the official document.

Pakistan Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal recently acknowledged in a letter to the country’s parliament that Mansoor was using a genuine Pakistani passport provided by the country’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), a government entity responsible for issuing identification documents to Pakistani citizens.

“NADRA has conducted a departmental inquiry to unearth involvement of its officials in the issuance of fake CNIC (Computerized National ID Card) to Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor with the name of Wali Muhammad s/o Shah Muhammad,” Iqbal wrote to the parliament.

The government said it dismissed at least three NADRA employees after an investigation established their involvement in issuing travel documents to the Afghan insurgent leader.

Pakistani local residents gather around a burning vehicle hit by a U.S. drone strike, May 21, 2016. Afghan Taliban Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was the target of the drone near Dalbandin, Baluchistan, Pakistan.

Mullah Mansoor's vehicle hit by a U.S. drone
Pakistani local residents gather around a burning vehicle hit by a U.S. drone strike, May 21, 2016. Afghan Taliban Mullah Akhtar Mansoor was the target of the drone near Dalbandin, Baluchistan, Pakistan.

Corruption

Some in Pakistan have likened Mansoor’s passport issue to an administrative glitch or a corruption case.

“Until and unless the government will take strong measurements against corruption and those involved in it, these incidents will remain unavoidable,” Hasan Askari Rizvi, a Lahore-based analyst, told VOA.

Farhat Ullah Babar, a prominent lawmaker and member of the Pakistan Peoples Party, cited the government’s incompetence in Mansoor getting a Pakistani passport.

Babar said the government’s response to parliament is inadequate.

“It is our absolute right to know about the loopholes that allowed a national security organization to issue Pakistani documents to a terror chief,” he told VOA.

“The nation needs to know what has been done to the culprits involved in this heinous crime. Let me tell you, nothing, absolutely nothing,” Babar said.

Some critics argue that NADRA follows a very strict verification procedure, and no one can be issued a fake national identity card without an insider’s help.

Taliban safe haven

Afghan officials said that Mansoor’s ability to get a Pakistani passport points to ties the insurgent group has with elements inside Pakistan’s military establishment.

Pakistani officials have rejected the Afghan government’s allegations and said Taliban neither have support nor safe havens inside Pakistan. They said Taliban control large swaths of areas inside Afghanistan and operate from there.

While Taliban do control certain districts in Afghanistan, according to a new report published by Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), Kabul and Washington maintain Taliban leadership still enjoys safe havens in Pakistan.

Talking to VOA this week, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells reiterated U.S. calls for Pakistan to crack down on militants and avoid selective actions against militants in the country.

“We would like to see the same commitment that Pakistan brought in 2014 to the fight against Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan; that same strategic commitment to the other militant proxy groups who take advantage of Pakistan territory,” Wells told VOA.

U.S. Army General John Nicholson, the U.S. commander of the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, said Thursday that Pakistan has not changed its behaviors since August, when U.S. President Donald Trump announced his new U.S. strategy that called on Pakistan to do more to stop militant sanctuaries in the country.

“No, I haven’t seen any change yet in their [Pakistan] behavior,” Nicholson told reporters following a meeting of the NATO defense ministers in Brussels.

“They could put pressure on the enemy, but if they allow the enemy to regenerate and allow their safe havens in Pakistan, then we will have another tough year ahead of us,” Nicholson warned, while talking to VOA at the end of the NATO meeting in Brussels. (VOA)

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Taliban Warns Phone Companies to Shut Down Their Coverage in Ghazni

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Taliban Ghazni
Members of the Taliban gather in Ghazni province, Afghanistan. voa

Ghazni, Washington October 11: Taliban militants have ordered mobile phone companies to shut down their networks at dark in central Ghazni province, provincial police authorities told VOA.

In a bid to mitigate risks, the insurgent group has asked telecom operators in Ghazni province to halt operations from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. in order to make it difficult for the Afghan forces to get intelligence and tips on militants through mobile phones.

The insurgent group has destroyed several telecom towers in the restive province over the last three days.

“The recent uptick in airstrikes against militants is causing increasing casualties in Taliban ranks. The militants want to destroy telecom towers to disturb communications,” Fahim Amarkhil, a police spokesperson in Ghazni told VOA.

The Taliban has said Afghan and U.S. forces use the network signals to locate the group’s fighters.

In addition to Ghazni, the insurgent group has asked mobile phone companies to halt their networks’ coverage in several other provinces as well, an official of a major cell phone company in Kabul told VOA on the condition of anonymity.

The official added that in many cases, the operators have no option but to comply with what the insurgents want.

The disruption in telecom services have angered customers in Ghazni who rely on mobile phone as their only means of communication. The residents fear that if the government does not address the issue in a timely manner, the telecom companies may end their operation in the province.

“Some time ago, the Taliban had warned the telecom companies to pay taxes to the Taliban, not to the government, and the issue was resolved,” Jamil Weqar, an activist in Ghazni told VOA. “But this time, they destroyed the towers which has created many problems [for customers],” he added.

The telecommunication sector in Afghanistan has made tremendous progress following the fall of the Taliban and the establishment of a new government in the post-2001 era. With little to no access to cell phones and the internet 15 years ago, the country now has more than 20 million mobile phone subscribers, covering more than 85 percent of the population.

New strategy

The communication blackout comes as the new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is increasing military pressure on militant groups across the country. The new plan includes a more intensive use of airpower against militants.

The latest official data shows U.S. forces dropped 751 bombs in September against the Taliban and militants linked to the so-called Islamic State terror group in Afghanistan. This is the largest number of bombs dropped on militants in a single month since 2012.

“This increase can be attributed to the president’s strategy to more proactively target extremist groups that threaten the stability and security of the Afghan people,” according to a summary from the U.S. Air Force’s Central Command.

U.S.-backed Afghan forces are trying to regain control of areas and districts lost to the Taliban across the country.

The government has said it controls nearly two-thirds of the country’s 407 districts. Taliban reportedly control 33 districts, less than 10 percent of the national total. Around 116 districts are “contested” areas, according to a recent U.S. military assessment. (voa)

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4 Ships Banned From All Ports For Violating North Korea Sanctions

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South Korea's naval ships
South Korea's naval ships take part in a military drill for possible attack from North Korea in the water of the East Sea, South Korea. voa

The U.N. Security Council has banned all nations from allowing four ships that transported prohibited goods to and from North Korea to enter any port in their country.

Hugh Griffiths, head of the panel of experts investigating the implementation of U.N. sanctions against North Korea, announced the port bans at a briefing to U.N. member states on Monday. A North Korean diplomat attended the hour-long session.

Griffiths later told several reporters that “this is the first time in U.N. history” that the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against Pyongyang has prohibited ships from entering all ports.

He identified the four cargo ships as the Petrel 8, Hao Fan 6, Tong San 2 and Jie Shun.

According to MarineTraffic, a maritime database that monitors vessels and their moments, Petrel 8 is registered in Comoros, Hao Fan 6 in St. Kitts and Nevis, and Tong San 2 in North Korea. It does not list the flag of Tong San 2 but said that on Oct. 3 it was in the Bohai Sea off north China.

Griffiths said the four ships were officially listed on Oct. 5 “for transporting prohibited goods,” stressing that this was “swift action” by the sanctions committee following the Aug. 6 Security Council resolution that authorized port bans.

That resolution, which followed North Korea’s first successful tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States, also banned the country from exporting coal, iron, lead and seafood products. Those goods are estimated to be worth over $1 billion – about one-third of the country’s estimated $3 billion in exports in 2016.

The Security Council unanimously approved more sanctions on Sept. 11, responding to North Korea’s sixth and strongest nuclear test explosion on Sept. 3.

These latest sanctions ban North Korea from importing all natural gas liquids and condensates, and cap its crude oil imports. They also prohibit all textile exports, ban all joint ventures and cooperative operations, and bars any country from authorizing new work permits for North Korean workers-key sources of hard currency for the northeast Asian nation.

Both resolutions are aimed at increasing economic pressure on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – the country’s official name – to return to negotiations on its nuclear and missile programs.

Griffiths told U.N. diplomats that the panel of experts is getting reports that the DPRK “is continuing its attempts to export coal” in violation of U.N. sanctions.

“We have as yet no evidence whatsoever of state complicity, but given the large quantities of money involved and the excess capacity of coal in the DPRK it probably comes as no surprise to you all that they’re seeking to make some money here,” he said.

Griffiths said the panel is “doing our very best to monitor the situation and to follow up with member states who maybe have been taken advantage of by the tactics deployed by DPRK coal export entities.”

As for joint ventures and cooperative arrangements, Griffiths said the resolution gives them 120 days from Sept. 11 to close down.

But “in a number of cases, the indications are that these joint ventures aren’t shutting down at all but are on the contrary expanding _ and therefore joint ventures is a major feature of the panel’s current investigations,” he said.

Griffiths also asked all countries to pay “special attention” to North Korea’s Mansudae Overseas Project Group of Companies, also known as the Mansudae Art Studio, which is on the sanctions blacklist and subject to an asset freeze and travel ban.

According to the sanctions listing, Mansudae exports North Korea workers to other countries “for construction-related activities including for statues and monuments to generate revenue for the government of the DPRK or the (ruling) Workers’ Party of Korea.”

Griffiths said Mansudae “has representatives, branches and affiliates in the Asia-Pacific region, all over Africa and all over Europe.” Without elaborating, he added that “they’re doing an awful lot more than producing statues in Africa.” (voa)